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Do or die: India face uphill task in virtual semi-final

Having crossed the first hurdle, a bigger test awaits India who have no choice but to win against Australia.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2006 19:56 IST

Having crossed the first hurdle, a bigger challenge awaits India who have no choice but to win against world champions Australia on Friday to secure a place in the final of the cricket tri-series.

The Indians scraped through for a 16-run victory against West Indies in their last league match to keep their hopes alive but the real test for Rahul Dravid and his men will come against the Aussies in what is virtually a semi-final encounter.

The Indians know well that they can hardly afford to drop their guard even for a moment against Australia who also need a win to book their spot in the final.

Stunned by West Indies earlier this week, Australia would be keen to bounce back in style and avoid the ignominy of taking the flight home early despite being the pre-tournament favourites.

Skipper Ricky Ponting had sat out of the previous tie and so did their best bowler on show Glenn McGrath, perhaps in the belief that even their second string side would be good enough for West Indies.

But Brian Lara's men sprung a huge surprise and upset the applecart of the champion team en route to making it to the final.

However, one can trust coach John Buchanan to field his best side in the game on Friday to avoid further embarrassment.

The form of some of the top Indian batsmen in this lead- up tournament to Champions Trophy has left much to be desired.

While their bowlers did well to defend a meagre 162 against the West Indies on Wednesday, their batting looked in complete disarray.

Barring Sachin Tendulkar, who top-scored with 65, the rest of the batsmen showed little application on a wicket which just required a patient approach.

Skipper Rahul Dravid admitted the batting needed to be set right but blamed it on lack of match practice.

"We did not bat to our potential. But one must keep in mind that we haven't played for the last two months," he said after India's win on Wednesday.

But that excuse will hold little water as the likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni will have to fire if India have to bat out Australia.

Yuvraj, who missed the opening game when India scored 309, is yet to open his account in the tournament while Sehwag has scores of 1, 8 and 9. Dhoni, who made 18 on Wednesday, was out in an atrocious fashion, raising questions once again on his reckless battling style.

With Irfan Pathan most likely to sit out once again, the top order will have to give the team a good start which very often becomes the difference between winning and losing.

Australia might once again fiddle with their opening combination although Matthew Hayden after his 49 against West Indies is most likely to retain the opener's slot.

Stuart Clark, who was hammered for 87 runs from his 7 overs, is almost certain to make way for McGrath.

The weather was kind enough to allow uninterrupted play in the last two matches and the teams, especially India would pray that the sun continues to shine on them as in the case of a washout, Australia, who have seven points currently as compared to India's 6, will then make it to the final.

India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Irfan Pathan, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M S Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Mohammad Kaif, Harbhajan Singh, R P Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel, Dinesh Mongia, S Sreesanth, Ramesh Powar.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Hussey, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Dan Cullen, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hogg, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson. 

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